This was a question I was asked right at the end of last year by a friend and colleague in responsible travel
Given the recent announcement by responsible travel.com that they are to suspend offering orphanage volunteer trips I thought Id publish my reply –
what do you think what have I missed?
These are my immediate questions…and the fisrt questions I ask when doing due diligence on our childcare projects
1. Is the orphanage properly registered and operating under local law
2. How are the chidren “selected” in the orphanage/home? They need to come thru credible government or NGO agancies.
3.What working relationship do the homes have with outside experts and ngos – ie child abuse counselling – occupational therapy etc – if these are available.
3.What efforts are made to get the children back to thier own families if atall possible
4. What happens to the children once they are no longer children???
4.I note that the organization you mention offers two different “volunteer “opportunities – short missions and longer term placements.It is not clear what is done during either of these placements. I would be very concerned if the volunteers on the short missions have close engagement with the children? The copy certainly suggests that there is a guarentee that the volunteers will be able to “hold ” the children.
Is there skills transfer in the longer term placements – do the volunteers work with or instead of local people? What is the long term goal of the volunteer programme
5. What are the screening procedures for volunteers and have risk assessments been done.I can see no requirement for criminal record checks for example
6 What are the rules about staff/volunteer ratios – how often are there groups of volunteers at the homes? Children should not be paraded .
6. Do they have child protection policies that the volunteers are briefed on and made to commit to in advance
7. What systems are in place to prepare -brief and support in situ and debrief the volunteers and the local staff.
I do not know this organisation but as I say any organisation that encourages short term engagement with vulnerable children worries me!